Rice Queen is a new informal restaurant (self described as an Asian diner) on the floor below the Panama Dining Room on Smith St. I dropped in to have a look and liked the sound of the menu so much I ate that evening, rather than waiting to dine with friends as had been my intention. Rice Queen is promising and the food is good, but it needs to make some improvements.
The photos above and below show the sunny front room overlooking Smith St. I love green and so the colours in this room are very pleasing to me. Rice Queen has a short menu with daily specials and offers only counter service. You order and pay at the bar, take a number and your meal is brought out like in a pub.
Below is the main dining space, with red, blue and yellow dominant. I ordered my meal at the bar and the price came to $49. I knew this was not right and mentally calculated it to be $43.50. I went through the menu with the man serving me and I was right. I hate being overcharged and given he was using an electronic register I don’t understand how it could be wrong.
I started the evening with a Wang Chung Tonight – cherry juice, vodka, mint and lime ($14). Yummy!
For entree I ordered the dumplings, served with a soy and ginger dipping sauce ($7.50). They’re moist and delicious. After eating the dumplings I realised that I had forgotten to order rice with my meal and went back to the bar to rectify this. $1 for a bowl of steamed rice is extremely reasonable.
The western plains pork with soy, tamarind and 5 spice begged to be ordered ($14). It was excellent with the most amazing eggplant also in the pot with bok choy.
As a contrast I also ordered the Japanese style cold spinach with soy and sesame, and it was very tangy and generous sized ($8).
The service was very slow (nearly 30 minutes for the dumplings to arrive and about 20 after that for the mains to arrive) and it was far from busy. They’ve only been open for about 3 weeks and are yet to be discovered by many locals. I plan to go back in a few weeks to try some more of the great food and expect by then to see that the service problems have been overcome.
The Bimbo Deluxe business model (very cheap but good food to draw the crowd in, who then spend lots of money on drinks) should work for Rice Queen and I believe that within a few weeks it will be the next trendy happening place to be on Smith St (particularly if you find it impossible to get into Gigibaba). With bar, lounge and dining spaces Rice Queen is flexible and affordable.